Montreal claims third USL-1 title
The Montreal Impact became the third club in league history to win a third league championship, downing the defending champion Vancouver Whitecaps 6-3 on aggregate in the USL First Division Championship series with a 3-1 victory in the second leg at Stade Saputo Saturday before a sold out crowd of over 13,000.
The first team to post a perfect record in the postseason since the 1999 Minnesota Thunder, the Impact started their sixth win in succession with a game-changing play on the half hour mark when a penalty and Vancouver send-off gave the Impact a two-goal series lead and a man advantage.
Then a three-goal frenzy in the final five minutes of the half left the Impact in front in the game 3-1 and in a commanding advantage in the series, allowing them to play a very possession-oriented second half with the extra man to secure the championship.
In the 28th minute, the Impact were awarded a penalty on a play that began with Leonardo Di Lorenzo sending a ball up the middle into the area. Goalkeeper Jay Nolly and Montreal's Tony Donatelli raced to the ball, which slipped away as the two arrived at the same time. The ball went to the left to Roberto Brown, who was tackled hard by Pejic, leading to the card. After the dismissal of the defender, Donatelli slotted the ball inside the left post for the two-goal aggregate advantage.
In the 36th, Ansu Toure made a nice run toward goal for Vancouver, slicing through the defense and getting a shot off from the edge of the box, but it was blocked by a defender before getting to goal.
Two minutes later a cross from the right wing found the head of Brown for a shot that nearly beat Nolly, who made a good diving stop toward the far post.
But just a minute later, Montreal put a lock on the championship. Joey Gjertsen swung the ball out to the left flank to Brown, who crossed the ball back into the middle to Gjertsen, who one-timed it past the keeper with a defender hanging on his shoulder for a 2-0 lead in the game in the 40 minute. The strike gave the hosts a three-goal advantage in the series.
The Impact did not let up and the attack continued with Brown finding the back of the net in the 42nd minute. Di Lorenzo sent the ball from the flank to Gjertsen at the edge of the area. Gjertsen held off a defender and delivered to the center of the box to Peter Byers, who with his back to goal laid it off to the penalty spot to Brown, who buried it past Nolly and was later honored as the USL-1 Championship Series Most Valuable Player.
The goal scoring spree continued with Vancouver finally getting on the scoreboard via a strike from Toure at the other end. Chris Pozniak made a run up the middle and threaded the ball to Marlon James, who delivered a cross from the edge of the area to the back post, where the diminutive winger rose to put the header inside the upright to make the match 3-1.
The best chance of the second half for Vancouver came in the 63rd when a cross in to Kenold Versailles created a chance, but his shot was slightly directed off target.
"We built up throughout the playoffs, and I think in the finals we peaked," said Gjertsen, who was happy to not only win against former team, but especially pleased to win it in front of home fans having won his Whitecaps title on the road in Rochester previously. "Six goals in two games we are going to be hard to beat, but well done to the 'Caps, they fought the whole time."
The title was the fifth of Eduardo Sebrango's career, the most of any player in league history. Mauro Biello won his third with the Impact, having played for the club since its inception in 1993. Along with Nevio Pizzolitto, who played the entire match, he helped guide the club to its previous championships in 1994 and 2004 as well as having won the US Open Cup championship with Rochester in his lone campaign outside of Montreal in 1999.
Montreal joined the Rochester Rhinos (1998, 2000, 2001) and Seattle Sounders (1995, 1996, 2005, 2007) as three-time USL-1 champions. Combined with its five regular season titles (1995-97, 2005-06), the Impact have more league titles than any other club, two more than Seattle's seven.